OPINION: It’s the right thing for the integrity of the league to attempt to get the Sale versus Worcester game played, but the Sharks’ statements may have forced Premiership Rugby’s hand.

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I don’t think any of the directors of rugby or players of Wasps, Bath or Bristol want to end up in the play-offs by default so if the game in Manchester can go ahead on Wednesday, that is the best solution if everyone concerned is happy for it to take place.

However, the Sale PR machine needs to have a long hard look at itself after first issuing a statement claiming the crucial Premiership game was to “go ahead as planned” and then following that up with another which came across to me as blaming the postponement on Worcester.

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It’s borne out of a desperation to make the top four. They have worked so hard and invested a lot to do that so you can understand it in a way but whether it comes right from the top and Steve Diamond himself or from the media team, the statements weren’t a good look at all.

It should go without saying that the safety of the players is what comes first here and the Warriors are right to be concerned about the welfare of their employees when there has been a reported 16 positive cases in the opposition ranks.

There should be no blame or responsibility whatsoever attached to them and many people will say that rules are rules and that the game should have been called off with Worcester being awarded the full five points. That is what has happened in the case of Gloucester versus Northampton, with the home side being handed a 20-0 victory, so you can understand why some people might wonder at first glance why it’s one rule for one and a different rule for another.

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In reality, though, Saints were offered the chance to postpone their game until Wednesday as well but they declined to do so because they are in the midst of a front row injury crisis and some, if not all, of the remaining fit front rowers will be self-isolating so they would be unable to field a team.

Sale, on the other hand, have claimed that they would have been able to field a team today. It’s fair to question how that can be the case when they have reportedly had 16 positive tests and operate with one of the smallest squads in the league, but that is what they said.

As well as it not being in the best interests of the league in terms of its integrity, there would perhaps have been the possibility of a legal challenge from Sale if they had been denied the chance to fulfil the fixture and Worcester had been awarded five points.

It’s still by no means a given that the game will go ahead on Wednesday with a number of hurdles to overcome on Monday and Tuesday when it comes to testing and other protocols.

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Premiership Rugby deserves credit for doing everything they can to get the game on, though, and for almost getting through all of the fixtures left in the 2019/20 season when the Top 14 was called off early and the PRO14 could only manage back-to-back derby games when its regular season returned.

Let’s hope all the players who have tested positive are doing okay and there is a positive resolution to it all, whether that be Sale qualifying for the Premiership play-offs or not. When all is said and done, though, the Sharks should acknowledge their PR failings.

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